Has anyone had their child pay for school on their own?

However, most college students did not have both the high school achievements to get admitted to a highly selective college and the financial capability (usually parent money, sometimes scholarships and financial aid grants) to afford such a college.

So getting through college as quickly and cheaply as possible is often the necessary route for many college students.


If they are interested in a career as a military officer, wouldn’t the service academies also be of interest?

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For PSLF, there is no tax liability. For other types of forgiveness, the amount forgiven is taxable in the year it’s forgiven.


They are, but not something my kids desire.

Please check the scholarships available at each college. IIRC, the highest award BU gives is the trustee scholarship which is highly competitive but offers full tuition. Room and board, plus living expenses and books could cost an additional close to $20,000 a year. Subtract the Direct Loan, and the student would need to earn $14,000 or so each year. It would be possible with some hard work.

Here is the info on applying for the Trustee Scholarship at BU. 20 are awarded annually.


I agree that University of South Carolina is worthy of consideration. They offer several scholarships which bring the cost of attendance to their instate cost.

BUT the McNair Scholarship is their large award which is for full cost of attendance. This requires completion of the University of South Carolina Honors College/Top Scholars application by November 15. It is also suggested that the application for admission be submitted by October 15.

Here is the info about U of South Carolina OOS scholarships. There are a number of good ones!



I strongly agree with this. Having debt after graduating from university can very significantly reduce a student’s options in terms of what to do next.

First jobs after graduation usually pay quite badly. It is tough enough for the student to just find a job that is appropriate for their intended career and pays well enough to live. If they also have to pay off loans their options can be very limited. You do not really want your child to have to live at home with you because it is the only way they can make ends meet. This would very significantly reduce their job options. Also, part of our job as parents is to help our kids get out on their own.

One example of this: My oldest graduated from university about 3 1/2 years ago with no debt. She took what was for her a dream job, but it did not pay very well. It was only possible for her to take it because she had no debt. The dream job allowed her to establish residence in a state that has a good public DVM program (we live in New England that only has one DVM program and it is both private and very expensive). This dream job she loved, and it led to a different job with a veterinarian in the same state. As a result she got into a very good DVM program and is paying in-state tuition (saving about $100,000 over four years while studying at a very highly ranked and very good program). None of this would have happened if she had graduated with debt.

We did however set a budget and made them stick to it. We told our kids what we would pay and we would not let them spend more – taking on debt was specifically not permitted.

I also agree that just because the universities think that you can afford $x per year per child does not mean that you really can afford this much. The budget that we set for our kids was what we felt that we could afford, and was indeed less than what the NPC’s showed as our expected contribution. Fortunately we were able to find schools that fit the budget based on some combination of merit aid, looking in Canada, and finding schools that cost a bit less than some. One daughter wanted a small school and did have the stats for somewhere like Bowdoin but the NPC was way out of line with reality. We also think that where she went instead was probably a better fit.

BU and Northeastern were for us the most expensive universities that either daughter was accepted to, and were way over budget. McGill was a fraction of the price for us. Whether this will be true for you I do not know (we have the advantage of dual citizenship in this particular case).

Sometimes if you want to get a reasonable deal you need to be willing to go where the reasonable deal is. Of course this applies to a lot more than just university education, but it applies very strongly to a person’s choice of university. Psychology is an areas where many, many very good universities have very good programs.

We expected our kids to understand that university is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they are expected to make the best of it. So far both have done so (through their bachelor’s degrees – graduate school has just started for one and is “not yet” for the other). Their “skin in the game” was to find and select universities that fit the budget, and do very well at university.

I agree with this also. If the debts taken up by students attending BU or Northeastern are paid off by the government this is not going to go over well with my plumber or with the guy who pumps out my septic system every two years (who I have gotten to know over the years).


I have a friend whose grandma refused to pay for her son/my friend’s dad to go to college, but fully funded his best friend’s college education. So she had the money, she just didn’t want to pay for her son. He worked his way through school, but I think that definitely caused some resentment. My friend called her “my mean grandma”.

UNC will also be expensive out of state.

Just wondering why you made the choice to pay for private K-12, but don’t want to pay for college? Seems like most people do it the other way around and take the free K-12 and save up for college. That $100K would go a long way to paying for 4 years of a public university.

We promised our kids that they could go to college without student loans. I don’t want to saddle them with that debt just starting out. That’s not “skin in the game” to me. That’s a burden that we are fortunate enough to be able to take off their shoulders. We won’t be able to pay for the most expensive schools, but D22 has some scholarship possibilities and we should be able to swing $100K or a bit more.


I have a deal with my kids similar to the one @CateCAParent had with their dad. I’ll “pay forward” for their undergraduate education and they have to do the same with their kids.


We all understand that you cannot pay $120,000. Few of us can.
So, what CAN you pay?
Then, add $5,500 in federal loans.
If your daughter has a part time job this year (or takes one up now - counts as a good EC BTW, but limit it to about 10H a week unless she doesn’t have significant ECs already) she could make about $3,000 more, and full time over the summer would likely add $3,000.
===> that’s your daughter’s college budget.
If you give us your numbers, we can help you with the universities offering costs that are close to /within budget.

Even with a part-time job+ full time summer job + full federal loans, your daughter probably can’t afford R&B by herself, let alone tuition. If she gets a full tuition scholarship (rare, but more common than true full rides), are you able to pay for her R&B?
Wrt any scholarship, look at the conditions for keeping them: a 3.0 is okay, but some scholarships want a 3.7 or 3.8, which is MUCH MUCH harder to get in college than in HS!

CC->4-year flagship can be a decent plan BUT for high stats kids can actually waste tens of thousands of dollars because transfers get lousy aid. NO full tuition scholarships for transfers (exceptions may exist but just compare merit scholarships for freshmen and transfers, the difference will be clear). As a result it may not be a good deal for a top student. In addition it generally takes more than 2 years to complete CC, not all credits transfer depending on where you live… so, are you okay helping her during 6years rather than 4?)

Full rides exist but can’t be counted on (I’m surprised she’s heard already – can you list where she heard she had full rides? This is very useful information for many parents who read this thread.)
Can you afford the cost of tuition instate, if she finds a way to pay for R&B at your flagship or a university offering similar costs?
Is there a university within a 20-30mn easy drive from your house?
Another question we typically ask (often, distressed) students who post here indicating that their parents won’t pay for college is “Do your parents expect you to go to college or did they think you’d enroll in the military/get a job/get married after HS?”, "what can they pay even if they can’t pay it all’ and “Did you do something to make them want to withdraw support?”
With a 4.0 at a private school I assume your daughter isn’t a problem child but were you expecting her to marry or get a job rather than go to college?
Clearly you value education since you sacrificed so much to offer her a private education, so what were your expectations for the way she would use that education?
Are you okay with her commuting from your home? with her moving away far away if there’s a good scholarship there?
(Trying to understand your expectations and parameters).


Back to the original question…

We looked at it as a joint obligation to pay for college. I made it clear that I wouldn’t sign for parent loans or co-sign any private loans. I really didn’t want the to take loans but after year one they needed to. But we had to work together to get school paid for.

One child (D#2) had merit and athletic scholarships that pretty much covered her costs. She did not work until her last semester and even summer jobs were not terribly high paying but she made it work. She did take $15k in student loans but graduated with about $8k of that still in the bank (apartment fees, down payment on a car, living expenses for the summer while she took the FE exam). She feels like she had a pretty lush college existence, but really didn’t. She lived cheaply, had no car, no spring breaks in Europe (she had to play during spring break anyway), borrowed books.

Other child (D#1) chose a low cost school to begin with, had a few low merit scholarships. Honestly, she didn’t do a good job of having jobs while in school or during the summer. and she paid for it by not being able to do everything she wanted. She was the very definition of a poor college student. She had more in student loans and is thrilled that they are currently on ‘pause’ by the govt. She had many fewer options after graduation and still lives like a poor college student. She recently returned to school for a grad degree but learned her lesson and is not borrowing any more money (she has a funded TA position, plus works 24 hours per week, lives in the basement of a house). Her biggest expense is being the bridesmaid in too many weddings!

So can it be done with only the student loans? Yes. Are there a lot of sacrifices involved? Yes, and the first and biggest may be choice of college. She will have to pick a cheap school (my D #1) or a school where she is offered a lot of merit money (my D#2). Such a school may not be her first choice. She may have to live cheap and work hard.

Do I wish I could have waved a magic wand and made school financing easier? Absolutely. My kids had plenty of skin in the game. I wish they could have picked any school they wanted, been full time students with plenty of time for internships or clubs or doing projects without pay. I wish they could have had cars and spring break trips and study abroad without needing to worry about costs. Alas, no magic wand so they had to make choices considering the money they had.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with your plan to have your daughter pay for her own college, but it will really limit her choices if she has to do it all on the $27k loans and working her way through. It may take more than 4 years. Be honest with her. Don’t take out loans in your name (PLUS) expecting her to pay them back. She won’t be able to combine your loans with hers after graduation. Private loans might have better interest rates but have many fewer protections and options than government loans.


There are some good threads with good info here:

With the OPs EFC, they are not qualified for Gates or Questbridge. I am not familiar with the others.

I was just trying to link to the Financial Aid & Scholarships subform here on College Confidential. Not sure why it came across like that. Trying again.

Anyway there are many threads in that subforum that might help, so might be worth a look.


University of SC has a deadline of November 15 for honors college which comes with a number of scholarship options. Look online to see test scores. Also, OOS students with high enough scores and grades have historically gotten in state tuition rates. If your student is NMF, you can stack an award.

To apply for Honors College, the U of SC app has to be submitted by the early action deadline of Oct 15 (tomorrow)



That’s not for ALL of their scholarships….but it is for the McNair. Check the link I posted above.

OP, why did your child turn down full rides?

Do you want your daughter to pay for her entire education because she won’t accept one of the full ride offers and the net cost at her preferred schools is more than you’re willing/able to pay? Don’t make the mistake of letting her make up the difference with loans. The only way she’ll get substantial loans is if you sign for them. That makes them your loans, so you’d be responsible for paying them back.

Can you afford to pay anything for college? Take whatever amount you can pay and add the ~$5500/year federal student loan and ~$3k summer earnings. That’s her budget. She’ll have to look for merit to cover the rest. Her financial safeties are the free rides and any school she can commute to from home. I’d run the net price calculator for every school she’s interested in and I wouldn’t allow her to apply to schools that come in over budget. There’s no point in getting an acceptance to a school you can’t afford.


Just want to give you our situation. Texas Single mom with EFC over state schools price. High stat (NOT NMF) ACT 36, 1590 SAT, rank #1 of 423, chased merit. Ended up at nonflagship state university with STACKED merit from admission and engineering department, both renewable if GPA met. This gave her 27,500 a year that is currently paying the full cost of attendance. EDIT: No 529 or college savings. I can afford to cash flow around 8-10k a year with no loans. I found college confidential when she was in middle school and did the FAFSA forecaster and learned how high my EFC. I realized D needed to chase merit. We focused on NMF but sadly she did not make it. She only applied to the schools that give HUGE merit for stats in the Southeast. I was able to get D to buy into merit chasing early on. That really was the key. Good luck!


@PB1961 Our son went to GaTech on National Merit and Zell Miller scholarships. We paid room & board fees. He lost Zell after his semester abroad in Hong Kong, dropped his grades there, they have different grading system, even more unforgiving curve, than GT’s. He offered to pay a difference between Zell & regular Hope scholarship out of his summer internship earnings, it was not a lot, he did it for his two last semesters, but it was meaningful to us, that he took responsibility and offered to do that. It helps that majority of CS summer placements are paid internships.